3 Lessons from Designing NFTs

In December 2021, Card79 launched the Kintsugi Upgrades NFT collection. The goal was to reimagine physical objects in the real world as technologically advanced digital artifacts that could exist in the future. Card79 has sold two NFTs and the rest of our NFTs can be found on our opensea page.

Innovation is at the core of our company ethos and our Kintsugi Upgrades NFTs have allowed us to push the boundaries of the design discipline altogether. We have learned plenty of lessons along the way that we want to share…

NFTs Aren’t Just a Fad

There has been a lot of public debate about whether or not NFTs are here to stay. At Card79, we believe that NFTs aren’t just a trend but are helping to build new platforms for empowering creators. Marketing and Communications Associate, Nicole Schaefer, said that “NFTs have introduced this huge opportunity to make every person an investor, a shareholder, an owner, a designer, a creator.”

“With NFTs, the creators are the winners.”

Nicole Schaefer, Marketing and Communications Associate

NFTs make use of blockchain technology which is also the bedrock of cryptocurrency transactions. A blockchain is a database that can be used to trace the transfer of tangible assets (a house, car, cash, land) and intangible assets (intellectual property, patents, copyrights, branding). For NFTs, the blockchain database allows individuals to claim and transfer ownership of digital assets over a secure network with traceable, tamper-proof records. 

Kintsugi Upgrades NFT
The innovation with a blockchain is that it guarantees the fidelity and security of a record of data and generates trust without the need for a trusted third party.

Through the blockchain, NFTs are positioned as legitimate business assets that creators can utilize to grow their businesses with their own creative content. “With NFTs, the creators are the winners,” Schaefer said, “I think people who call themselves creators and are not branching into NFTs are missing out on an outlet to share their work with a powerful community.”

Embrace the Impossible

“The Kintsugi Upgrades NFT project has pushed me beyond my comfort zone and beyond what I had imagined I could be doing as a designer,” said Industrial Designer Mark Choi, “creating digital art that communicates a narrative in an abstract way has been done by artists and animators, but is rarely done by industrial designers.”

Choi is one of the lead designers of the Kintsugi Upgrades NFT collection. When speaking to the inspiration behind each NFT’s tech upgrade, Choi said that “the unique characteristics of the old artifact is the primary driver for inspiration… It’s difficult to create a strong narrative about something we know little about, but after we have already fallen in love with the beautiful aesthetics of the artifact, the harder it is to let go of… Having the artifacts in front of us with the context stripped away allowed us to get very creative with them.”

“Having the artifacts in front of us with the context stripped away allowed us to get very creative with them.” 

Mark Choi, Industrial Designer

The Kintsugi Upgrades NFT collection challenges designers to think outside of the realm of possibility. Choi echoed this sentiment in saying, “as an industrial designer whose primary job is to create a physical object that serves a function, I was challenged by my own beliefs on what a good design is, beliefs which I have built over the course of my study and career. This project has definitely changed the way I look at design in many ways and allowed me to have more appreciation for skills and practices I was not familiar with.”

The Metaverse is Going to Change Design

The design discipline itself is going to undergo drastic changes due to the rise of digital design that caters to the metaverse. This can be an exciting or daunting prospect for industrial designers, but Choi shared his enthusiasm in saying “a typical industrial design process has technical constraints that direct the final design to stay within the box of “what’s possible.” However, in the digital world which we create the NFTs for, other than the skills to model and render in 3D software, there is nothing stopping our imagination.” 

As Choi mentioned, a design skill set that will become increasingly valuable is proficiency in 3D rendering and modeling software. The visualization and 3D rendering software market is forecasted to grow exponentially by 2028 with an expected 22.5% growth rate. “Different 3D software is optimized for different purposes,” Choi continued, “being able to juggle between multiple types of software that do the job best at certain types of work, and not being confined to one software and workflow, was a valuable learning experience.” Choi utilizes Gravity Sketch, Rhino, Fusion360, Blender and more to achieve the look of each Kintsugi Upgrades NFT.

“The things we own explain who we are. I think the same goes for the metaverse.”

Mark Choi

In lieu of tangible commodities, Choi believes that the value of NFTs come from their ability to shape ideas, culture and identity through their design. Choi said that “the Kintsugi Upgrades NFT collection is a set of products that might exist in an alternate future civilization. They are also a manifestation of Card79’s design philosophy of giving form to the future as fortune tellers of design carrying forward tradition and innovation together.” 

When asked whether or not he sees this project as part of the metaverse, Choi stated, “Yes. I see the KU NFTs as things that can exist in the Card79 metaverse which we have crafted with our beliefs in design. We challenged ourselves to strip away the tangible functionality from the aesthetics of an industrial design product and thought of ways to add value in the context of the metaverse and web3…” 

“…the things we own explain who we are. I think the same goes for the metaverse.”


Written by Nicole Keegan

Founded in 2014 by Afshin Mehin, Card79 is a design studio located in San Francisco with an extensive dedication to the presentation, development and support of new products through excellent design services. Our mission is to give form to the future with an emphasis placed on innovation.